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R. Kelly Trial: Prosecution, Messy Defense Rests

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Kelly in 2019.
Photograph: E. Jason Wambsgans-Pool/Getty Photographs

The protection in R. Kelly’s Brooklyn federal-court trial rested on Wednesday afternoon after hours of messy testimony that got here in matches and begins over the course of three days. One among Kelly’s protection witnesses stumbled over whether or not he had beforehand lied in court docket not a terrific look when making an attempt to convey credibility. One other witness talked about the film House Jam in discussing his familiarity with Kelly. That is the sixth week of the trial.

The witness who choked on a solution about mendacity in court docket, Larry Hood, is Kelly’s buddy from childhood who offered safety for the musician from 1991 to 1995 and once more from 2002 to 2004. Hood grew to become a Chicago Police Division officer in August 1994, the identical month that Kelly, then 27, illegally wed Aaliyah, then 15. (It’s unclear if he grew to become an officer earlier than or after the marriage date; Hood claimed he didn’t attend these nuptials and discovered about it solely later.) He mentioned he labored for Kelly when he was off responsibility and generally enlisted his fellow officers to work safety “if we wanted them.” Hood mentioned he left the police division in 2007 “in good standing” and together with his pension.

“Did you ever see Robert Kelly appearing inappropriately with Aaliyah?” Calvin Scholar, one in all Kelly’s attorneys, requested.

“No, I didn’t,” Hood replied.

Scholar additionally requested Hood whether or not he knew Angela, who claimed final week that Kelly had abused her when she was 14 or 15 years outdated. She additionally testified that she witnessed Kelly carry out oral intercourse on Aaliyah on a tour bus when the late singer was 13 or 14.

“Yeah, she was simply one of many younger women who was round when Aaliyah was … one in all Aaliyah’s little mates,” Hood answered. Did he see something inappropriate with Angela? “No, sir,” Hood mentioned.

“Did you ever see him with underage ladies?” Scholar requested. “Did you ever see Kelly lock a lady in a room?” Hood once more answered within the unfavorable.

“As a police officer, I must take motion towards that,” Hood mentioned of any alleged wrongdoing. “I by no means needed to take any motion. I used to be by no means made conscious of wrongdoing.”

Prosecutors’ subsequent line of questioning didn’t bode properly for Hood’s believability.

“Isn’t it true you left the police division in 2007 since you had been convicted of felony forgery?” the prosecution requested. Hood admitted that he had pleaded responsible to forgery prices.

The prosecutor requested if the forgery was “associated to using counterfeit $100 payments.” Hood mentioned sure, however added that he was “not conscious the cash was faux.”

“So that you weren’t telling the reality once you had been in court docket, beneath oath, once you had been pleading responsible?”

“Sure.”

“You’re in court docket, beneath oath, right here right this moment?”

“Sure,” he mentioned.

Earlier than Hood’s testimony, Kelly’s longtime affiliate Dhanai Ramanan took the stand within the singer’s protection. “He’s like a mentor to me, a buddy, a great buddy,” Ramanan mentioned. He claimed to have met Kelly within the early aughts and was always round him for 15 years, together with on excursions. Ramanan — who mentioned his job with Kelly was “to look at and to be taught and to turn into” — described the artist as well mannered towards ladies.

The protection requested, “Throughout that whole time, did you ever see him abuse a lady? Did you ever see him lock a lady in a room? Did you ever see him strike a lady? Did you ever see him deny a lady meals?” Ramanan answered no.

“At any time when we’d go to a restaurant, they’d sit down first, they’d order first, they’d eat first — I imply, chivalry, mainly,” he mentioned.

Whereas Ramanan mentioned he was at all times round Kelly, the prosecution revealed an inconsistency in that testimony when, throughout its line of questioning, he couldn’t bear in mind some chronology surrounding excursions, thereby undermining his declare of continually being within the singer’s presence.

The protection’s third witness, Jeff Meeks, labored for Kelly at his studios from 2002 to 2010 and from 2014 by means of 2019 up till Kelly’s arrest. He began as an intern, working his manner as much as the function of assistant audio engineer. Scholar requested Meeks questions on whether or not he had ever seen locks on the surface of studio doorways and whether or not he had ever seen a lady locked inside a room. Meeks responded, “No.” Meeks additionally mentioned that when he was working the telephones, he took IDs. Requested whether or not he had ever seen an underage feminine, Meeks once more mentioned no. Whereas he didn’t examine each ID, he mentioned he didn’t recall any underage women.

Throughout Meeks’s testimony, his demeanor was that of a talk-show visitor. He leaned again in his chair and held the mic. On the small video display screen, Meeks appeared to have a balding ponytail. He gave quick solutions when he might and complicated ones when he couldn’t.

On cross-examination, the prosecution requested whether or not Kelly ever had a couple of feminine visitor. “I suppose,” Meeks replied.

“Do you recall telling federal brokers that Kelly generally had three or 4 feminine visitors?” prosecutors pressed.

“I imply, I imagine you,” he responded. “I simply don’t bear in mind.”

Meeks was then questioned a few time when he allegedly “noticed a woman ask to depart,” because the prosecutors put it. The prosecution requested whether or not he had requested a colleague, “What can we do?”

“I do keep in mind that,” he mentioned. The prosecution requested if, after the colleague advised Meeks to let the particular person depart, “You had been relieved?”

“I’m certain I used to be a variety of issues, however I suppose relieved was one,” he replied.

The prosecution then requested Meeks whether or not he knew about Kelly’s conduct earlier than they labored collectively in 2002. Meeks mentioned he had heard of Kelly.

“I imply, all people did — bear in mind House Jam?”

In complete, the protection referred to as 5 witnesses. Kelly didn’t testify.

Kelly faces one racketeering depend and eight Mann Act counts. The Mann Act counts relate to Kelly’s alleged shuttling of victims throughout state strains for illicit intercourse acts.

Prosecutors have described Kelly as a “predator, a person who for many years used his fame, his reputation, and a community of individuals at his disposal to focus on, groom, and exploit women, boys, and younger ladies for his personal sexual gratification.” They contend that this abuse was not only a collection of horrendous incidents however moderately was carried out as an orchestrated legal enterprise — therefore the racketeering cost.

They used particular allegations of sexual misconduct — from luring minors to psychological torment that saved them beneath his management — to make their racketeering case. They’ve contended that Kelly and his clique had a “frequent objective of attaining the goals of the Enterprise” to help his music and private model whereas engaging victims into illegal sexual exercise.

Federal prosecutors referred to as 45 witnesses to make their case. Eleven of those witnesses had been Kelly’s accusers; their allegations included sexual abuse and misconduct, with some accusing him of each.

Eight of those witnesses had been former workers. A number of described how Kelly had used his workers to fulfill women and girls, shuttle them round, and allegedly hold them in a state of isolation. And a number of other described having misgivings about Kelly’s therapy of his girlfriends and their suspicion of his misconduct.

The prosecution’s closing witness, psychologist Daybreak Hughes, testified on Friday afternoon and Monday morning to elucidate that victims of home and sexual violence could stay with and return to their abusers — and that going again doesn’t negate victimhood. Hughes’s testimony was meant to deal with the query of why ladies would stick with Kelly if he was abusing them

Witnesses previous Hughes final week reiterated what earlier witnesses had mentioned about Kelly’s dramatic highs and lows, describing him as an terrible employer and an indignant particular person. Previous to Hughes’s testimony, one in all Kelly’s former assistants, Cheryl Mack, mentioned he had threatened her so she would help him in a lawsuit filed by an accuser, warning, “Usually, in these conditions, individuals come up lacking.”

Aliciette Mayweather, one other former Kelly assistant, testified final week. Mayweather’s testimony revealed that she had expressed concern about one in all his girlfriends, Jane, in a textual content to a different worker. “When she will get to Florida, she ought to run and by no means come again,” the message mentioned. “One thing is de facto unusual as to the therapy of the infant …” (Mayweather’s twin sister, Suzette, additionally labored as Kelly’s assistant. Throughout Suzette Mayweather’s testimony a number of weeks in the past, she described Kelly as being “like a brother” however admitted considering that Jane “appeared younger” to her.)

Diana Copeland, one other former Kelly assistant, additionally took the stand final week. Copeland’s title got here up repeatedly all through the trial, with witnesses saying she coordinated journey for Kelly’s feminine visitors and saved a watch on them. She testified that Kelly’s girlfriends didn’t freely roam his properties. Copeland mentioned she was “fined” — that’s, her pay was withheld — when she couldn’t discover a “actually uncommon pet” Kelly had demanded.

One other witness final week, Angela, testified that Kelly had abused her when she was 14 or 15 years outdated and that she noticed him sexually abuse Aaliyah on a tour bus when the late singer was 13 or 14. “I noticed Robert and Aaliyah in a sexual scenario. It appeared that he had his head in between her legs and was giving her oral intercourse,” Angela testified of the alleged incident, which she mentioned befell in 1992 or 1993. 

Alex, the second male accuser to publicly make allegations towards Kelly, took the stand as properly. Alex claimed to have met Kelly in 2007, when he was 16. A buddy of Alex’s on the time, Louis, launched him to Kelly. (Louis was the primary man to come back ahead publicly with sexual-misconduct allegations towards Kelly; he claims this abuse began when he was 17.) Alex, who mentioned he had his first sexual encounter with Kelly at age 20, claimed he had been pressured into undesirable sexual exercise.

The prosecution additionally performed recordings on Wednesday, however they had been introduced solely to jurors and events within the case; neither the media nor the general public watching Kelly’s trial in a viewing room might see or hear any of it. A court docket doc filed Tuesday revealed that prosecutors deliberate on presenting recordings that “present the defendant bodily and verbally abusing and threatening females.” But it surely stays unknown what precisely jurors heard or noticed. Kelly didn’t use his headphones whereas these recordings had been introduced, which might have allowed him to listen to them.

A lady from one in all these recordings, referred to as “Jane Doe #20” in court docket filings, was going to take the stand, however prosecutors modified their thoughts due to her emotional state. They mentioned that “after the federal government performed the audio recording for Jane Doe #20 and Jane Doe #20 traveled to New York to organize for her testimony, she began to have panic assaults and appeared to have an emotional breakdown. For the sake of her psychological well being, the federal government suggested Jane Doe #20 that it might not name her as a witness on the trial.”

The conclusion of the prosecutors’ case didn’t have the jaw-dropping energy of its first few weeks. As a result of the press is relegated to a viewing room the place the proceedings are displayed on two 52-inch TV screens, it’s unclear how jurors reacted to witnesses and proof that corroborated what many, many different witnesses had already mentioned.

The one issues which are actually seen on these screens are the profiles of Kelly and two of his legal professionals. Everybody else’s head and face are the dimensions of quarters. (Vulture measured.) The one glimpse of jurors happens when the digicam catches them shuffling into the courtroom. Jurors might have appeared riveted, satisfied, or bored by this week’s proceedings. The tail finish of the prosecutors’ case might have proved pivotal for them, or it might have been damaging. The jurors, who at the moment are about enter their sixth week of testimony, could also be exhausted at this level; a juror may need dozed off at some juncture, which occurs even within the highest-profile trials. There isn’t any sense of how any of this can land.

One other key unknown issue is how the jury interpreted Copeland’s cross-examination. Kelly’s lead lawyer, Devereaux Cannick, requested Copeland whether or not the doorways at Kelly’s house might lock from the surface — an necessary query, contemplating how some accusers mentioned they felt compelled to remain. “No, they didn’t,” Copeland mentioned. The protection additionally tried to make use of Copeland’s cross-examination to undermine claims that Kelly ran a legal enterprise. Copeland, who give up her job and returned many instances, mentioned she did so “as a result of I felt like he didn’t have reliable individuals round him. Robert didn’t have management over his financial institution accounts. He didn’t even know his personal social-security quantity. He had no management over that; he had no thought the place his royalties had been going. That was an enormous downside.”

This put up has been up to date all through.


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https://www.vulture.com/2021/09/r-kelly-trial-prosecution-defense-rests.html | R. Kelly Trial: Prosecution, Messy Protection Rests

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